Jeremy Harvey is the reigning court jester of Detroit Rock City — anyone who disagrees would be hard-pressed to offer up a more impressive résumé.
He’s hard to miss: Measuring 6 feet 6 inches, this spindly, quirky prankster is beloved by scenesters near and far for his pursuits as writer, artist, entrepreneur and just plain oddball. He once went to a nude beach with fake warts glued to his genitals, in the name of journalism (the now-defunct Orbit, to be precise). He’s the baddest karaoke motherfucker in town (see him every Sunday at the Buddha Lounge). His solo art show, Holier Than Thou, consisted entirely of oversized canvas paintings of buttholes. He co-founded this little art thingy called the Dirty Show — you may have heard of it, given its recent national attention and impending tour to Florida — and produced last year’s Sexpo, Detroit’s first-ever sex art show/convention.
Not to mention, he friggin’ copyrighted the TRTL, that controversial little reptilian graffito spotted all over D-town. Harvey is not the creator of TRTL (the mystery tagger’s identity was recently revealed), but now, thanks to the copyright, he owns the rights to the little bugger’s image — you can even buy your own TRTL T-shirt at Harvey’s Web site, sugartitdetroit.com.
“Jeremy is like a genius,” says Dirty Show co-founder Jerry Vile. “He’s like an idiot savant. Well, I don’t know about the savant part, but … he may possibly be from another planet, I’m not sure.”
So what’s next up Harvey’s extra-long sleeve? A new genre of artistic genius, one that the never-modest Harvey says could reach the same heights of surrealism or cubism: Fauxbo Savoir Faire (i.e., a bunch of homeless people’s signs that Harvey collected and framed).
And how were the seeds of this particular patch of brilliance sown?
“One day, I was really wasted,” Harvey explains. “And I saw this homeless guy, and I said, ‘I’ll buy your sign for five bucks.’ And we started haggling, and I ended up having to give him $6.50 for it.”
Harvey framed it, and “then I kind of got addicted to it. I started collecting them, it was like a little hobby.”
Harvey’s new show, entitled Frame Value, consists of 15 such signs, framed, and purchased by Harvey from panhandlers across the city. Harvey frequently haggled over a suitable price.
“I would just drive up to them and say, ‘How much for your sign,’” Harvey says. “The most I paid was $20, but I really wanted it. It was functional, you could wear it as a necklace, and it had this real crazy schizophrenic writing on it. The guy wanted 30 for it and I talked him down to 20.”
Occasionally Harvey had to throw in crayons or pens to sweeten the deal, so the owner of the sign could make a replacement.
However, Harvey isn’t trying to make any socially poignant statement with this show.
“I’m not doing it to be a champion of the homeless,” he says. “It’s more like Andy Warhol’s soup can, something you wouldn’t normally see up on a wall, but framed, it’s appreciated.”
Harvey is on a roll:
“By framing these signs I have made them high art, something to rival Picasso or Dalí,” he muses.
And what about critics who would argue that it’s not art?
“I would say people who think like that are assholes,” he says cheerfully.
And unlike some of Harvey’s more ambitious endeavors, Frame Value is a relatively low-maintenance show.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had an art show where I didn’t care if the cat puked on it,” Harvey quips.
Frame Value opens Thursday, Sept. 2, at 8 p.m. at the Majestic Café, 4140 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Call 313-833-9700 for more info.Sarah Klein is the associate arts editor of Metro Times. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org